The rest of my school day passed quickly until my final class, Latin.
Most students took a foreign language they might actually be able to use someday, like Mandarin, or Hindi, or Spanish. I’d decided to take Latin because James Halliday had taken Latin. He’d also occasionally used Latin words and phrases in his early adventure games. Unfortunately, even with the limitless possibilities of the OASIS at her disposal, my Latin teacher, Ms. Rank, still had a hard time making her lessons interesting. And today she was reviewing a bunch of verbs I’d already memorized, so I found my attention drifting almost immediately.
While a class was in session, the simulation prevented students from accessing any data or programs that weren’t authorized by their teacher, to prevent kids from watching movies, playing games, or chatting with each other instead of paying attention to the lesson. Luckily, during my junior year, I’d discovered a bug in the school’s online library software, and by exploiting it, I could access any book in the school’s online library, including Anorak’s Almanac. So whenever I got bored (like right now) I would pull it up in a window on my display and read over my favorite passages to pass the time.
Over the past five years, the Almanac had become my bible. Like most books nowadays, it was only available in electronic format. But I’d wanted to be able to read the Almanac night or day, even during one of the stacks’ frequent power outages, so I’d fixed up an old discarded laser printer and used it to print out a hard copy. I put it in an old three-ring binder that I kept in my backpack and studied until I knew every word by heart.
The Almanac contained thousands of references to Halliday’s favorite books, TV shows, movies, songs, graphic novels, and videogames. Most of these items were over forty years old, and so free digital copies of them could be downloaded from the OASIS. If there was something I needed that wasn’t legally available for free, I could almost always get it by using Guntorrent, a file-sharing program used by gunters around the world.
When it came to my research, I never took any shortcuts. Over the past five years, I’d worked my way down the entire recommended gunter reading list. Douglas Adams. Kurt Vonnegut. Neal Stephenson. Richard K. Morgan. Stephen King. Orson Scott Card. Terry Pratchett. Terry Brooks. Bester, Bradbury, Haldeman, Heinlein, Tolkien, Vance, Gibson, Gaiman, Sterling, Moorcock, Scalzi, Zelazny. I read every novel by every single one of Halliday’s favorite authors.
And I didn’t stop there.
I also watched every single film he referenced in the Almanac. If it was one of Halliday’s favorites, like WarGames,ghOstbusters, Real Genius, Better off Dead, or Revenge of the Nerds, I rewatched it until I knew every scene by heart.
I devoured each of what Halliday referred to as “The Holy Trilogies”: Star Wars (original and prequel trilogies, in that order), Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Mad Max, BACK TO THE FUTURE, and Indiana Jones. (Halliday once said that he preferred to pretend the other Indiana Jones films, from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull onward, didn’t exist. I tended to agree.)
I also absorbed the complete filmographies of each of his favorite directors. Cameron, Gilliam, Jackson, Fincher, Kubrick, Lucas, Spielberg, Del Toro, Tarantino “And, of course, Kevin Smith.
I spent three months studying every John Hughes teen movie and memorizing all the key lines of dialogue.
Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.
You could say I covered all the bases.
I studied Monty Python. And not just Holy Grail, either. Every single one of their films, albums, and books, and every episode of the original BBC series. (Including those two “lost” episodes they did for German television.)
I wasn’t going to cut any corners.
I wasn’t going to miss something obvious.
Somewhere along the way, I started to go overboard.
I may, in fact, have started to go a little insane.
I watched every episode of The Greatest American Hero, Airwolf, The A-Team, Knight Rider, Misfits of Science, and The Muppet Show.
What about The Simpsons, you ask?
I knew more about Springfield than I knew about my own city.
Star Trek? Oh, I did my homework. TOS, TNG, DS9. Even Voyager and Enterprise. I watched them all in chronological order. The movies, too. Phasers locked on target.
I gave myself a crash course in ’80s Saturday-morning cartoons.
I learned the name of every last goddamn Gobot and Transformer.
Ready Player One